At least 10 people were killed and 30 others injured on Thursday when a powerful bomb ripped through a market in a posh locality in Lahore, the latest in a series of terror attacks that have left Pakistan on edge.
The explosion, the second to hit the city within ten days, took place at the posh Z Block market of the Defence Housing Society.
The blast came a day after Pakistan Army launched a nationwide military operation ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’ to eliminate terrorists and consolidate gains of its counter-terrorism operations.
Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique told reporters that eight people were killed and 30 others injured in the blast.
However, two bodies were later recovered from the debris of an under-construction building where the explosive device was planted.
“The death toll of the DHA blast has risen to 10 after two more persons were recovered from the under-construction building,” Edhi Foundation Lahore spokesman Muhammad Younis said.
Among the injured, the condition of three was said to be critical.
Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan’s Airlink firm Moazzam Paracha was among those killed in the blast.
“Mr Paracha was present at his under-construction restaurant (and) suffered serious injuries and was rushed to the General Hospital where he died,” Younis said.
“Bombay Chowpati (that serves Indian cuisine) and Alfarno Cafe restaurants were apparently the target of (the) terrorists. The device was planted in an under-construction building near Bombay Chowpati,” a senior police officer said.
He said these restaurants were frequented by young couples.
Deputy Inspector General Lahore Police Dr Haider Ashraf said, “Apparently an explosive material was planted in an under construction building in Z block market. We are also investigating the other aspects like that of gas leakage.”
Punjab police spokesman Niyab Haider, however, confirmed that it was a ‘planed device’ that caused the explosion.
“It appears to be a planted device. However we are investigating from all aspects,” he said.
A few days earlier the same market was evacuated by law enforcement agencies after a bomb threat.
Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif ordered an investigation into the blast and summoned a report from Inspector General Police.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed grief over the loss of lives in the blast while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar condemned the attack and sought an immediate report on the incident.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast.
An eyewitness, Salman Iqbal, said he was busy in his work at his bank in Z block when the powerful blast took place.
“I was struck against my desk because of the impact of the blast sound and fell semi unconscious. When I regained consciousness after a while all my colleagues were saying there is a blast outside the bank,” he said.
Iqbal said when he went outside, he saw many people lying injured on the road and crying for help. He said some of his colleagues suffered minor injuries.
Several vehicles were also damaged in the blast. Rescue officials shifted the injured to different city hospitals.
Army and Rangers personnel along with the police reached the spot and cordoned off the area.
DHA is under the control of the army. All educational institutions and trade centres in the DHA have been closed. Besides, all major trade centres and markets in Lahore have also been closed.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the blast seemed to be aimed at sabotaging Pakistan Super League final in Lahore.
Sanaullah said the Rangers have already been deployed in Punjab to fight terrorism.
“Terrorists are coming to Pakistan after taking training from Afghanistan,” he alleged.
Both in Lahore and Sehwan in Sindh, suicide bombers had come from Afghanistan, Sanaullah said.
The blast came days after the suicide blast on Lahore’s Mall Road in which 15 people, including police officers, were killed. That blast was claimed by Jammat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
A series of blasts in the country have killed more than 100 people, including women and children.
Last Wednesday, at least seven people were killed and several others, including judges, injured in two separate suicide attacks in Pakistan’s restive northwest region.
One of the deadliest suicide bombing in Pakistan in recent times struck last Thursday at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan area of southern Sindh province where at least 88 people were killed and over 200 injured in an attack claimed by the Islamic State.